On October 17th, one year after overhauling its flagship operating system (OS) with Windows 8, Microsoft will release Windows 8.1. For Windows 8 users, the upgrade will be free; new converts can buy it as a stand-alone product or baked into new devices on October 18th.
What does Microsoft hope to achieve with Windows 8.1? Greater saturation in the tablet market, along with quicker adoption on PCs. Ultimately, Windows 8.1 is a classic compromise: it appeases both those upset about the abrupt shift Windows 8 took toward a touch-based user interface and those who’ve already embraced that newly integrated feel.
Whether you’re looking to improve upon your Windows 8 experience or are finally ready to give the new OS a try, below are 10 of Windows 8.1’s top features.
1) The Start button is back. Microsoft brought this longtime staple back, although it still takes users to the app-focused modern Start screen rather than the old-school Start menu.
2) Direct boot to the desktop is also back. If you want to skip Windows 8’s modern Start screen, Windows 8.1 allows it again.
3) Supportive usability tools are now everywhere. Windows 8.1 arrives with a new Help + Tips app and bold visual tutorial cues.
4) Performance levels are vastly enhanced.Internet Explorer 11 shows incredible speed increases from Windows 7 and even 8, while apps like Xbox Music, Mail, Camera, and Reading List also enjoy major enhancements.
5) Personalization options are improved. New colors are available for customized Start screen backgrounds, or you can duplicate your desktop onto the Start screen, giving Windows 8.1 a cohesive feel.
6) SkyDrive is built-in for file syncing. No hard drive space? No problem. SkyDrive is particularly helpful on the wide range of tablets Microsoft is expanding into.
7) The Press and Hold command replaces the small swipe. Anyone used to Windows 8 might think of this as a step backwards. But for new adopters coming to 8.1 from Windows 7 or an older OS, Press and Hold is far more intuitive than the small swipe.
8) New Bing Smart Search does it all. Open the Search pane, type in a query, and Windows scans files on your PC and SkyDrive, in your email, within apps, and on the Internet to deliver visually compelling and comprehensive results.
9) Wireless capabilities are beefed up. Microsoft focused on near-field communication (NFC) with Windows 8.1, improving wireless print and display capabilities.
10) The PC Settings pane is optimized. Microsoft has finally brought most control panel options into one streamlined interface. This change might not seem flashy, but it sure is welcome in terms of productivity and efficiency.
The final verdict? Windows 8.1 is more than a service update but less than a total overhaul. If you’re thinking about upgrading, particularly from Windows XP, which Microsoft will end support for in 2014, contact CMIT Solutions today for a free technology assessment. We can help you modernize your tech environment without sacrificing productivity or efficiency.